Michelle Lensink

Save the River Murray Levy

I seek leave to make a brief explanation before asking the Minister for Water and the River Murray a question on the subject of the River Murray levy.

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK: In April last year the Liberal Party successfully moved amendments to the Water Industry Act to abolish the Save the River Murray levy for customers who do not receive Murray water, which was a massive win for South Australia's regional areas. Whilst the act came into effect on 1 July last year, section 93(12), which outlines the amendment, was exempt from commencing on that date in order to allow SA Water time to undertake the necessary administrative processes. Twelve months after the amendment has been passed these customers are still being charged for water they do not use. My questions are:

1.Can the minister explain what is the hold-up and when it will be implemented?

2.Will the minister rule out that the delay is because the government is so short of cash that it needs to implement any measure in order to hang on to money?

The Hon. I.K. HUNTER (Minister for Sustainability, Environment and Conservation, Minister for Water and the River Murray, Minister for Aboriginal Affairs and Reconciliation) (14:27): I thank the honourable member for her most important question. The Save the River Murray Fund and levy were established in 2003. The levy contributes to the River Murray Improvement Program, a program of works and measures to improve and promote the environmental health of the River Murray in South Australia and to increase the security and quality of the state's water supply. The program is integrated within a larger Murray-Darling Basin program of works and measures, the South Australian River Murray Salinity Strategy, and the South Australian Environmental Flows Strategy for the River Murray.

I was pleased to be advised that a range of programs will be funded in 2012-13, which total $27.02 million. These programs will include:

•a contribution to South Australia's payment to the Murray-Darling Basin Authority;

•the purchase of environmental water;

•upgrade of waste disposal stations;

•hazard management planning; and

•the implementation of SA Murray-Darling Basin water allocation plans.

Honourable members will be aware that South Australia has been successful in getting a basin plan that scientists say will return the River Murray to health. We have also recently won approximately $420 million in commonwealth funding to support our river communities and help the river environment.

The Hon. R.L. Brokenshire: Even Victoria are funding.

The Hon. I.K. HUNTER: The honourable member peddles his mistakes again to the chamber. We are currently funding the Murray-Darling Basin Authority exactly the same way we did last year. The honourable member should learn—

The PRESIDENT: I am sure that the Hon. Mr Brokenshire will attend and make a personal explanation.

The Hon. J.M.A. Lensink interjecting:

The Hon. I.K. HUNTER: Exactly right, but the honourable member does not go out and say that; he goes out saying 'We're not paying, we're not paying,' but of course we are.

The Hon. R.L. Brokenshire interjecting:

The Hon. I.K. HUNTER: I wonder who told them the mistaken information; one can only wonder. Truth is a very precious commodity, sometimes, in the media. Members will be aware that South Australia has been successful in getting a basin plan that scientists say will return the river to health. We have also recently won approximately $420 million in commonwealth funding to support our river communities and to help the river environment. While the funding is welcome, we acknowledge that there are likely to be some costs to the state in implementing the basin plan to 2019. That is why, in the 2012 Mid-Year Budget Review, a savings measure was introduced that reduces expenditure to the authority, and we have been through that ad infinitum in this place. The honourable member might do very well to bone up on what I have been saying in this place previously before he trots out his misconceptions in the media once more.

Under the Water Industry Act 2012, the Save the River Murray levy will no longer apply to land if its water supply is not connected in any way to the River Murray. Before the exemption can be applied, I am advised that substantial work has to be done by the Department of Environment, Water and Natural Resources together with SA Water. Exempt customers must be identified, and changes to administrative systems must be made in order to implement the exemption regime. Once administrative arrangements have been put in place, the relevant provision of the act will be proclaimed. SA Water is developing a communication strategy to ensure that relevant customers are advised once the exemption regime is in place.

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK (14:31): I have a supplementary question. When does the minister think that will be: this year or next year, or 2016?

The Hon. I.K. HUNTER (Minister for Sustainability, Environment and Conservation, Minister for Water and the River Murray, Minister for Aboriginal Affairs and Reconciliation) (14:31): I thank the honourable member for her most important supplementary. It will be put in place when those administrative changes have been made.

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK (14:33): I have a supplementary question.

Members interjecting:

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK: Whatever happened to '4,000 gigalitres, not a drop less'?

The PRESIDENT: The Hon. Ms Lensink, do you have a supplementary question?

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK: Yes, I just gave it.

The PRESIDENT: Well, what was it? There were so many interjections, I didn't hear it.

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK: Sorry, Mr President. Whatever happened to '4,000 gigalitres and not a drop less'?

The PRESIDENT: Well, the same as your sellout 2,200. The honourable minister.

The Hon. J.M.A. Lensink: Well, there's no answer to that one.

The PRESIDENT: I just gave you one.

The Hon. I.K. HUNTER (Minister for Sustainability, Environment and Conservation, Minister for Water and the River Murray, Minister for Aboriginal Affairs and Reconciliation) (14:33): This government has always said that we will rely on the best available scientific information, and the best scientific information told us that it was 3,200 gigalitres we needed, and that is exactly what we fought for and what we got in the end.

Where was the Liberal Party? They were so embarrassed that they didn't even go out to the barricades. It took some of their Liberal federal members to jolt them into action because they were getting out into the community the message that the Liberal Party was selling South Australia short—and they always will.

The PRESIDENT: The Hon. Mr Wade, is it a supplementary or a question? Please make it a question.

The Hon. S.G. WADE: It is a question, Mr President.

The PRESIDENT: Thank you. The Hon. Mr Wade.

 

 

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